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Matching Mole - On The Radio CD (album) cover

ON THE RADIO

Matching Mole

Canterbury Scene


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Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Matching Mole existed for just 11 months in 1972, and released two strong and fondly remembered studio albums before going their seperate ways. Over the last decade there has been a steady trickle of live archive material released, and this is the best of them to date. Robert Wyatt, who designed the cover and selected the running order, thinks it's the album which best captures the sprirt of Matching Mole. Bill MacCormick, who wrote the detailed sleeve notes, agrees with him. Some of the tracks have been issued previously as BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert, and the remainder come from the three sessions recorded for John Peel's Radio 1 show. As on the other archive releases, most of the pieces are instrumental except for Wyatt's wordless vocals on Instant Pussy and Immediate Kitten, and there's a fair amount of improvisation throughout.

The real treat for fans comes at the beginning; a 20 minute, 3 track medley recorded in pristine stereo (the remainder of the CD, while mostly of good quality, is in mono). This showcases just how powerful Matching Mole could be, with Dave MacRae creating beautiful sounds with his modified Fender Rhodes piano, Phil Miller playing searing lead guitar and Robert Wyatt taking a brief solo that is a poignant reminder of his remarkable drumming. Bill MacCormick had only been playing bass for 18 months or so at the time, but is never less than solid and occasionally sounds inspired. The contrast with the studio versions of these pieces, especially those from Little Red Record, is amazing. Legend has long had it that Phil Miller was highly intimidated by the presence of Robert Fripp at the LRR sessions and his playing suffered as a result; these recordings prove it. Elsewhere on the album Part of the Dance and Immediate Kitten feature the 5 piece line up with Dave Sinclair on organ, the only live recordings to do so (on the first album MacCrae was listed as a guest musician and Sinclair as the 'official' keyboard player, but he left shortly after it was completed). Another of the sessions features an interesting instrumental version of Kevin Ayer's No 'alf Measures, which also cropped up in their live sets. On the downside, no less than 4 tracks appear twice in different versions; Instant Pussy, Marchides, Part of the Dance and Lything and Gracing. While there are significant differences in the way that the pieces are interpreted, that is rather a lot of repetition for a single CD.

As good as this collection is, it's really one for the fans. It's the best of the various archive releases, both in terms of sound quality and for showing different incarnations of the band at different stages in their brief lifespan. It also offers an alternate view of much of Little Red Record; most of the pieces appear here as works in progress, which gives an insight in to how the bad evolved. Newcomers should check out the studio albums first, while established fans will treasure most of this and will forgive its occasional shortcomings. Well worth investigating.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#116968)
Posted Saturday, March 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars almost 4.5 stars really!!! ;o)p)

Over the year Matching Mole were together, they managed four BBC sessions, but only one had surfaced so far, with the BBC In Concert album issued in 92, containing their longer session from July. As that album had been OOP, Hux records unearthed the other three sessions and gathered them with the July session. Exactly why Hux chose not to organize the sessions chronologically is beyond me (there is even the Jan 72 session broken up in two parts), but the main thing is that we get all of them. An unrelated but colourful ugly artwork, some very informative liner notes, some precious photos, all of this make the only live MM album you'll ever need, because so far, it's the only one with an excellent sound.

The first session we are subjected to is the April 72 one, where all three tracks are meddled into a 20- mins, where MM already has some tracks down for their second album LRR. Indeed Marchides and Smoke Signals were only works-in-progress and both sound much different than in their future studio version (including a drum solo in the former); and are sandwiching Instant Pussy where Robert explodes his scat voice into echo effects. Up next is the Jan 72 session, broken up by the March 72 session, with the delicious Part Of The Dance (with Sinclair still in the line-up and McRae in as well), with their first album just about to be released. The Miller-penned PotD song features both an Hammond organ and a Fender Rhodes, and even though the sound quality is a bit approximate, this is one of the disc's highlights. The two March session tracks (Sinclair was gone by then) are much clearer sounding, especially the Ayers cover No 'alf Measures and the never studio-encapsulated Lithing track, an exciting Miller, McRae & Wyatt comp. Rounding up the unreleased tracks is an extended version of Immediate Kitten, where Sinclair's organ charms into the superb intro, then going fuzz into the body of the song. An extended and excellent workout that confirms that MM's best moments were with both Sinclair and McRae in the band.

The second part of the album had seen the light of day in 94, but it gets added on here. It is an In Concert feature from late July 72, just as their second album LRR was almost finished; less than three months away from the group's demise. His "session starts on the best Wyatt scat vocals ever with Instant Pussy, he yodels away madly in their best-ever version of this track. The next three tracks have been already featured in this compilation, but are presented in much different versions and you'd have to be a chiefmasterconoisseur to guess blindly where Lithing And Gracing track begins. LAG sees MM in full madness roaring at 120 MPH, and Marchides sees McRae's Fender Rhodes take a solid intro, before the group blinds us with their dexterity and virtuosity a bit further down the track. Part Of The dance is again much livelier in this version than either the radio or studio version. Here, it is the pinnacle of MM's short career, with Phil Miller shinning throughout the 6 minutes of the track. Absolutely essential stuff, with the closer ode to Benj (a roadie) melted in as a finale for the track.

Unless you own the old (94) BBC issue, there is no way that any MM fan should hesitate more than five seconds before running out to the shops to get their copies. And if you do own it, you already have the best part of this album, but the other three sessions are all worthy even if the Jan and March session's sound are a bit less sparkling. Indispensible!!

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#165527)
Posted Wednesday, April 02, 2008 | Review Permalink

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